Auctioned to the Sheikh - Holly Rayner

Chapter 1

Gray walls. Why did every office have to have gray walls? It was as if the owners were trying to reinforce the fact that you were their prisoners, their little worker-monkeys designed to come up with brilliant, company-saving finance strategies at a moment’s notice—which Emily Michaels gladly did.

The twenty-six-year-old looked around the buzzing offices of Salt River Resorts, the Arizona-based developer of high-end hotels and a company she’d been pouring her heart and soul into for several years. While she appreciated the talented minds of the developers that worked for the company, she was much more comfortable in the accounts department with the rest of her people.

Emily had worked as the accounts assistant at Salt River for four years now and regarded most of her coworkers as something of a hilariously dysfunctional family. While she liked her job, she’d been promised a higher position at least a year ago, and yet still sat in the exact same chair she did when the offer was made.

For the most part, Emily liked working in an office; she loved working with numbers and getting to wear office formal attire every day. The company had been good to her, overall, but her mounting bills were only highlighting her frustration with the lack of a promotion.

“Are you even listening to me?” came the low voice of Emily’s co-worker, Lindsey. She had long blond hair that was always curled to perfection and bore the unofficial title of office charity fundraiser. The two women had become close friends over the years and always kept each other up-to-date on the latest work gossip. Today would be no different.

“Yes!” Emily said quickly as her attention snapped back to her friend. She glanced over to where Lindsey was pointing. The subject of her friend’s scoffing seemed to be two office workers who were having a not-so-private moment in the kitchen. Two research assistants, Tom and Katherine, were seemingly engaged in a tickle fight.

“Ugh, look at them,” Lindsey said, her tone tinged with sadness. Tom had been Lindsey’s office crush for months now. “They’ll be dating soon.”

“He’s just…tickling her. It’s harmless!” Emily lied with a wince.

“Don’t try and make me feel better.” Lindsey rolled her eyes. “They’re all over each other.”

“She’s begging him to stop,” Emily offered. “She seems pretty annoyed, actually.”

“It’s all a metaphor. He’s ‘begging’ her to ‘stop’ being his friend. That’s going to seep into her subconscious for sure. She’s a tricky one.” Lindsey let out a big sigh. “I’m so over couples.”

“Robert still not calling back?” Emily asked of her friend’s most recent blind date.

“We don’t speak of Robert.” Lindsey narrowed her eyes and shook her finger in an over-exaggerated fashion. “Speaking of couples, you coming tonight?”

Emily had almost forgotten. Tonight was the company’s annual charity ball. Lindsey had an eye for what made a good party and a list of contacts long enough to fill a novel. In the past she’d thrown celebrations at art exhibitions, jazz nights, standup comedy shows, hot-air-balloon rides, casino nights. The list went on.

“Company ball, right?” Emily murmured, now turning her gaze away from Tom and Katherine who could now be seen at the coffee station engaging in a long, passionate kiss. Nothing too graphic, but definitely not ten a.m. material, either. She hoped Lindsey wouldn’t see them.

“Yep,” Lindsey shrugged, grabbing a donut off of the counter. “Charity auction, if you recall.”

“Yeah, looking forward to it. Black tie, right?”

“Right, and I have a favor to ask,” Lindsey said. She scowled at the couple getting fresh before escorting Emily into her office, shutting the glass door behind them and drawing the curtains.

“This is suddenly feeling ominous,” Emily giggled.

“I just can’t stand looking at them anymore. It’s soul-crushing.” Lindsey shook her head. “You’re coming tonight, right?”

“I’ve told you yes about a thousand times. Including literally two seconds ago.”

“Great!” Lindsey grinned, setting her coffee on her desk and taking a seat. She looked up at Emily and cocked her head to the side.

“…What?” Emily frowned. “What’s the vibe I’m getting here?”

“Well,” Lindsey made her hands into a steeple. Her tone was all business, but Emily could see the smile curving around her friend’s perfectly painted lips. “We still need one more girl to sign up for the charity auction.”

“Nope! Don’t even think about it!”

“It’s for cancer research,” Lindsey pleaded. “All you have to do is sign this waiver saying we can use you as one of the dates up for grabs in the auction.”

Emily laughed. “No way!”

As successful as Lindsey’s parties were, Emily wasn’t